Depression affects millions of men every year, and many of them don’t even know it. Men often don’t recognize the symptoms of depression, and they are less likely to seek help than women.
Depression is a serious illness that affects daily life and can cause health problems and even put you at risk for suicide. In fact, men in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Men can experience depression differently than women. They may be more likely to feel irritable and tired. They may lose interest in their friends, family, hobbies and work. They’re also more likely to have difficulty sleeping. And men may take more risks and develop unhealthy habits, like excessive drinking, smoking or drug use, to help camouflage depression.
While depression is a treatable illness, many men don’t recognize or seek help for it. But depression is a real and treatable illness, says the National Institute of Mental Health. Recognizing depression is the first step to overcoming it.
Another important step is being willing to talk about it. That is difficult for many men. Fortunately, men in the public eye that many people look up to, like professional athletes, musicians and actors, are talking openly about their struggle with depression and how they have dealt with it. This has helped lessen the stigma of men talking about their feelings, which is one of the barriers to successfully treating depression.
About Those Feelings
Have you been feeling very tired and angry, sad or worthless? Have you lost interest in your family and friends or work? Are you having trouble sleeping, or do you want to sleep all the time? Do you find yourself engaging in risky or unhealthy behavior?
These signs and others may mean it’s time to ask your doctor to screen you for depression. Having these symptoms for more than a few days can be a sign that you have depression. It’s important to seek help.
Men with a family history of depression may be more likely to get it than others. Stress from the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation, may trigger depression in some men. It’s often a combination of reasons.
Talk About It
The first step to getting the right treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health professional. An exam or lab tests can help rule out other health problems that may have the same symptoms. The doctor will also look at any medicine you are taking to see if it may be affecting your mood or energy level. The doctor will need to get a complete medical history.
Tell the doctor when the symptoms started, how long they have lasted, how bad they are and if they have occurred before. Tell the doctor if there is a history of depression in your family.
Your doctor may suggest medication or other treatment. Many people are helped by medication. Several types of therapy can also help treat depression. Therapy offers new ways of thinking and a chance to change habits that may be making your depression worse.
Not addressing stress — or always putting the job or family first — can take a toll. Men often don’t get help for emotional or stress-related issues. They may be reluctant to believe that stress is having an impact on their health and see less need to manage their stress than women do, says the American Psychological Association.
But taking care of yourself physically and emotionally can help avoid some major health problems. Positive mental health also allows people to cope with the stresses of life. And aiming for a healthier life can also help your family.
Consider practicing self-care. It can be as easy as starting to eat right and getting enough sleep. Taking a break now and then.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, steps toward mental and emotional well-being include:
- Building strong, positive bonds with family and friends.
- Getting more involved in the community. That could include volunteering, serving as a mentor or tutor, or joining a faith group.
- Taking part in sports, hobbies or other activities. Encourage your children or family members to join you.
- Sharing your problems and encouraging others to do the same.
Talk about it.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Talk to family, friends and, most importantly, a mental health specialist. And depression screenings and certain types of counseling are covered benefits in most health plans.* You can overcome your depression, and you don’t have to do it alone.
*Non-grandfathered health plans are required by the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for preventive care services without cost-sharing only when the member uses a network provider. You may have to pay all or part of the cost of preventive care if your health plan is grandfathered. To find out if your plan is grandfathered or non-grandfathered, call the customer service number listed on your member ID card.
Sources: Common Symptoms of Depression, Build Your Action Plan, Heads Up Guys; Men, Take Charge of Your Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017; Men and Depression, National Institute of Mental Health, 2013; Stress and Gender, American Psychological Association, 2011; By the Numbers: Men and Depression, American Psychological Association, 2015; Mental and Emotional Well-Being, U.S. Surgeon General; Suicide: Facts at a Glance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015; Mental Health by the Numbers, National Alliance on Mental Illness; Mental Disorders and Medical Comorbidity, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011